Billionaire and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates in an interview on April 27 took everyone by surprise by not sharing vaccine formulas with developing nations around the world.
In an interview with Sky News, Bill Gates was asked if it would be helpful to change intellectual property law in order to enable "the recipe for these vaccines to be shared."
To this Gates answered, "No".
When asked, "Why not?"
Bill Gates explained, “There's only so many vaccine factories in the world and people are very serious about the safety of vaccines. And so moving something that had never been done, moving a vaccine, say, from a [Johnson & Johnson] factory into a factory in India, it's novel, it's only because of our grants and expertise that can happen at all.”
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"The thing that's holding things back in this case isn't intellectual property. It's not like there's some idle vaccine factory with regulatory approval that makes magically safe vaccines. You've gotta do the trials on these things. And every manufacturing process has to be looked at in a very careful way," he further said.
However, as per the Business Insider report, Gates also said that getting vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to share vaccine formulas has already happened.
"We got all the rights from the vaccine companies," he said. "They didn't hold it back, they were participating."
Bill Gates also stated that he wasn’t surprised to see rich nations prioritising the vaccine for themselves.
“The fact that now we're vaccinating 30-year-olds in the UK and the US and we don't have all the 60-year-olds in Brazil and South Africa vaccinated, that's not fair, but within three or four months the vaccine allocation will be getting to all the countries that have the very severe epidemic,” he said.Earlier, in 2015, Bill Gates in a TED talk had warned of the potentially staggering death toll a worldwide pandemic could create.